On the Things

Tenor | Live Electronics | Prerecorded Microtonal Piano
Program Notes
This piece uses a revised translation of the text De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius (ca. 99 BC - ca. 55 BC).The original text was poetry used to persuade the Romans to embrace the modern developments of science without having to renounce their traditional religions. The new interpretation regards these issues in similar ways, but is adapted to a modern audience.
The text selections have been adapted as a song cycle with the microtonal piano emulating the music of Schubert. The overlaps of quotations require a breach of the tdition which the microtonal piano seeks to resolve.
Furthermore, the translated text evokes the ancient poetic style, which imposes its own structures on the text setting. Although the instrumentation is not standard, the essence of the original text is maintained.
The text is from the poem De Rerum Natura
by Roman poet Titus Lucretius Carus (ca. 99 BC - ca. 55 BC).
The translation is done by Stephen Lucas with reference help from
translations by W. H. D. Rouse, Martin Ferguson Smith,
A. E. Stallings, and William Ellery Leonard.
The translation focuses on reinforcing rhetorical figures and
integrating the text into the musical quotations from Schubert.
1. Mother of Rome
Mother of Rome joy of gods and men,
Dearest Venus that beneath the slipping stars,
Where sails the many voyaged seas
Where grows the fruitful living lands
through you all are conceived
having the vision of the great sun
Goddess winds fly free, clouds fly,
For you the damned earth bears scented flowers,
Waters of wide stretches smile and laugh
Glowing they fill the lighted sky.
2. Hence Nature
Hence Nature into their primal bodies dissolves all,
and nothing perishes ever to death.
For, were aught mortal in every part,
Before our eyes it might be snatched,
Since no force were needed to tear its bonds.
But of truth, because all things exist,
With seed boundless nature allows
Destruction nor collapse of all,
until some outward force may break,
Or inward to its hollow cells,
Dissolve it down.
3. For Wind
For wind tenuous with subtle body,
Drives and pushes a mighty ship of mighty bulk,
One hand directs it, whatever its momentum,
Whatever its direction one helm steers it,
Great and many are moved and hoisted
By moving wheels and engines,
With little effort.
4. Of the Pierides
Through pathless fields of the Pierides,
I wander where no other has.
I love to come to drain their untouched springs,
and pluck their untouched flowers
To seek for my head a signal crown,
from where the Muses have never touched a head:
First, since I teach of mighty things,
and free the mind from knots of rite,
Next, since I compose of things so dark,
a song touched by the Muses' grace.
5. Sudden Need
Sudden need and shortage persuaded to many things;
for they would lay their kindred on pyres made by others,
with loud cries and thrust the torch
so much blood and fighting rather than losing their bodies.
And now good listener, if I must speak,
I pray you bring to true philosophy,
and mind detached from cares.
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